Learning Happiness and Priority from the Ethics of the Fathers


         

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On Three Things Our Life Stands

By Nachum Mohl

How can we achieve success and happiness in this world? The answer is given to us in the Torah.

On three things the world stands: on Torah, on the service (in the Temple) and on doing acts of kindness. This is a well know adage found in the Ethics of the Fathers (1:2). This statement was made by Shimon HaTzadik (the righteous) who was from the remnants of the Great Assembly, over two thousand years ago, and it still is true until this day.

The world stands on three pillars; Torah is the first mentioned. The study of Torah is what makes a person into a man. From learning Torah we know how to behave properly in this world and perform our duties to man and G-d. When we learn and perform in accordance to our learning, we are engaged in "straightening out the world" or as some say, "tikun olam," in accordance to G-d's desires. Therefore we are considered in heaven as proper people.

The second mentioned is the Service in the Temple. The service in the Temple established a connection between man and G-d. Unlike Torah mentioned above, which is involved in the perfection of man into the service of G-d, the Temple Service concerns the repair and expansion of the connection between man and G-d. We can all use more of this.

The third mentioned item is doing acts of kindness. Acts of kindness is the third "pillar" upon which the world is supported. As opposed to the first two aspects which were between man and himself or between man and G-d, acts of kindness are between man and his fellow man.

The Other Adage:

There is another adage that is lesser known, and this is one that is joked about. "On three things the world stands: on gelt (money), on yichus (connections) and on status (what other people think about you)." This is said tongue in cheek, albeit and unfortunately there is much truth in it.

In order for a person to exist in this world he really needs at least one of the above: gelt, yichus or status - money, connections, or a good reputation. If a person does not possess one of these three aspects his chances for success in the world are ever more difficult.

Let us examine and understand why this is.

When difficult situations come upon a person, he must utilize those "reserves" that he possesses in order to overcome what ever difficulty he is experiencing. Many times money is the answer. If a person possesses money, large problems are made much smaller and much easier to bear.

If he possesses yichus, which is generally understood as family and connections, with these connections and their help he often can overcome the problematic difficulties as they come. Yichus is generally referred to as a well respected family background, but we are using it here in a more broad form. We consider yichus as connections, whether due to respected family background or just due to a person's social, business, or other personal connections. With the right connections in the right places problems can be avoided or minimized. (Heard about getting a parking ticket fixed?)

The third aspect mentioned is status. Here status means a high reputation in the eyes of his community, neighbors, and friends. Status here means what the other people think of you, irregardless if it is correct. When troubles come, if a person possesses a status in his community, etc, when he turns to them for help he will have a higher change of procuring that help.

In reality, Torah (which makes a person into a man) is like status. It gives him an importance.

Temple service is parallel to yichus. It is yichus which makes connections, like the Service in the Temple makes the connection between man and G-d.

Acts of kindness, helping others, are likened to gelt, (money) which can help a person out of a difficult situation and make life bearable.

Image a person who is with out any of the above three items. If a serious problem were to come upon him, he has no money to help himself through, has no connections, family or friends to give him support and has no status in the community that someone should see a need to help him. He could collapse under the strain and like many who have ended up in skid row defeated and depressed.

The importance of these three aspects are necessary in proper parenting. For a child to grow up secure in himself he must feel that he has the backing of his family and friends, that he is considered as an asset to his community and that he has some financial resources.

Even if a parent is not wealthy or rich in family ties, a child should not grow up with these feelings. A child must feel that he has the ability to make money, that his family backs him and that the community sees him in a positive light.

When a child develops and matures with these feelings he will stable and content in his own being. He will have a greater chance for personal and family success.

When G-d appeared to Abraham and told him to leave his home land, He said: (Genesis 12:2) "And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great…" The Rabbis of the Talmud tell us that since traveling causes a reduction of those three things therefore G-d had to promise him an increase.

"A great nation" - G-d promised Abraham (who was leaving his family) that he would have a large family. "I will bless you" – G-d promised Abraham wealth, since traveling causes a lost of wealth. "Make your name great" – G-d promised Abraham that he would achieve fame, meaning that his status amongst the nations would increase.

The Torah provides a guide for a person as he travels through this world. It educates him how to successfully live his life. It is for us to take it and use it. Happy is the one who takes the Torah into his life.

~~~~~~~

from the June 2008 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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